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Learning from Reading Others' Essays

By: Kate Simpson BA, MA - Updated: 23 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Essay Style Essay Structure Homework

Reading others students essays can be a fantastic way to improve your own essay style and structure. By reading another's essay in a critical manner, you will become more adept at analysing your own strengths and weaknesses. In addition, you might pick up extra tips and ideas for your future essays.

Swapping With Another Student

Your teacher may already encourage you to read each other's essays, or might provide photocopies of particularly successful homework essays for you to learn from. If this is not the case, why not ask them if they would be able to introduce this as a brief essay feedback session. Alternatively, try to get together with a friend and agree to swap homework essays after they have been marked. It can be useful to look at the way someone else has gone about answering the same question as you. Whilst reading the essay, try to think about a few key questions and note down your responses to them. These might include:

  • What are the strengths of the essay?
  • What are the weaknesses of the essay?
  • What would I have done differently?
  • What features make the essay persuasive?
  • Why are those features effective?
  • What makes the essay enjoyable and interesting to read?
  • What three things have I learnt that I can use in my own future essays?
If you are particularly interested in boosting your essay structuring skills, you might like to take the time to look closely at the way in which your friend has put their essay together. Try reading the essay and constructing a plan for it. Working 'backwards' in this way will enable you to really get to grips with the framework of their essay. If you are keen to improve your introductions or conclusions, look closely at theirs and see if you can understand the thinking process behind them.

Reading Other Essays and Material

You do not necessarily need to look at other students' essays in order to improve your own writing skills. Look at a variety of other material too. You might be interested in borrowing a book of academic essays from your school, college or local library and focusing on the ways in which they have been written and constructed. The essays you look at need not be directly based on a subject you are studying. Indeed, if they don't, this may help you to focus more clearly on the style in which they are written. Read anything: novels, cereal packets, TV guides, signs, magazines, newspapers and menus. All of these will help you to widen your vocabulary and think about different sentence structures and ways of presenting information.

Reading the work of others is a sure-fire way to polish your essay skills. Try to get into the habit of doing it regularly. Keeping on the ball and thinking constructively about the vast number of possible ways to write an individual essay will help you to progress with speed. However, remember to only draw upon the stylistic and structural ideas of others. Avoid plagiarism at all costs and never be tempted to copy any of the content of another's essay.

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